I just realized that more importantly than focusing on seed orders, is getting our chicks ordered. It is fabulous that folks all over the country are raising backyard flocks. The hatcheries, however, seem to be having a hard time keeping up with the surge in demand. Last year our local feed store was buying chicks from Privett Hatchery. They order a large number of chicks for laying and meat, goslings and ducklings, heritage and broad breasted turkeys. That being said, if you want something specific at a certain time, make sure you pick up their delivery sheet of what birds are coming in when, because they go fast. In the past the chicks are available at noon the day after arrival. Be there on time or early, as there will probably be a line of desperate chick mongers :)
We usually buy breeds locally that we just want a few of, like sexlinked layers or heritage turkeys. When we want a larger number of birds at a certain time (thirty cornish cross) or when we think we want to raise a specific breed that is rare or we want quality genetics, we have ordered from hatcheries directly. In the last two years we have ordered Heritage Standard Cornish, Dark Brahmas, Welsummers and Ameraucanas with the intention of keeping a rooster and breeding our own. The Standard Cornish were just insanely slow growing and the Welsummer roosters we had were all too aggressive. The Brahmas are a large breed, very gentle, mellow and cold hardy, but not the best layers. We are hoping to hatch some Brahma chicks this spring, as well as some Ameraucana chicks. I am expecting our broody Cochin or the Brahma hen to go broody at some point this spring. Hopefully I'll have some eggs to stick under them.
Last spring we borrowed a monster of an incubator and set well over a hundred eggs and only ended up with about a dozen chicks. The thermostat on the front of the incubator was off and it took us forever to get the thing dialed in. This year we've been planning on buying our own small incubator but the ones I am interested in are pretty expensive. If I get two broody hens, that might just be a start for us, as we are not expanding our chicken flock this year, probably just replacing some of the older layers.
For the exciting news...we have decided to raise more ducks and some Turkeys this year. Our outdoor area is large, but the indoor housing probably won't keep more than ten to a dozen ducks comfortably by mid winter. We love how hardy the ducks are. Our sole hen lays an egg almost daily. We are going to redesign their watering system so that it is not so messy. My only other complaint, is that the eggs are usually soiled and require cleanup. The Khaki Campbells only get to about four and a half pounds. I've been researching other duck breeds. I want a decent layer, and a drake that gets close to the ten pound range.
I recently discovered Holderread Waterfowl Farm out of Corvalis Oregon. They have some beautiful birds and their prices are comparable with the larger hatcheries, who I think wouldn't provide as quality of birds. So I printed out their order form today. I'm planning on ordering ten or twelve Saxony ducks. I love the gals buff coloring. While we are ordering birds, I figured we'd get a couple more Khakis and a few runner ducks as well.
Below is a picture of our Senior Buck in his old pen which is now the duck area. If you click on the picture you can probably see that there is small pen within a larger fenced area. Raising ducks here should work out well, as the runoff from the hills pools in the flat area, of which we have very few (flat spots). My horse lived here for a while, then goats. We planted cover crops here for the last two years and let the chickens range here. We are planning on planting some fruit trees here and digging a mini pond for the ducks. Perfect.
We are going to order thirty Cornish Cross again and possibly ten Jumbo Pekin Ducks from McMurrays. If anyone wants to order ducks from McMurrays and wants to share shipping costs let me know. The ducks will ship separate from the Cornish and I don't think we want more than ten or so. I was going to order some heritage turkeys from McMurrays, but we need to order fifteen, and we only want four to six. So we may be purchasing those locally. We are thinking a couple Broad Breasted Whites and a few Bourbon Reds, Blue Slate or Naragansettes; something heritage, something pretty, a bird that could reproduce on its own should we keep them around for the winter. We will also get a half a dozen or so Red or Black Sexlinked Layers from the feed store. Here is a picture of our Bourbon Reds from two summers ago in their movable hoop house.
We would like to be hatching most of our own chicks and not supporting the large hatcheries but for now, we are taking the easy route with the meat birds and hybrid layers; more bang for our buck. Our first priority is to meet all of our poultry meat needs. We haven't bought any poultry since mid summer, but we've only got around eight roasters left in the freezer. Raising ten plus meat ducks and a handful of turkeys will help our chickens last in addition to providing diversity in our diet. Ideally we'll not only freeze whole birds, but pieces as well, in addition to canning chicken for the first time, making duck confit, grinding turkey and chicken meat for sausage and having fresh Turkey for Thanksgiving. Heres looking forward to chicks, ducklings and baby turkeys, (turklings). How are your poultry goals changing this year? Downsizing? Upsizing? What are your favorite breeds? Happy Poultry Planning Everyone!
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